The biggest gathering of everything finest in the Vrbovsko region is Bundevijada – the annual festival of pumpkins! It is now 13th year in a row that the Tourist Board of Vrbovsko and the Town Hall organise this festival, which bears a mark of a fair with many to-buy-list opportunities.
There are many things presented on this fair, but Bundevijada in its core is primarily about autumn and its fruits. Traditionally, people used to gather all the best from the autumn season and pickle it for winter. Pickles are favourite again, as they are preserved using the natural ingredients and kinds of vinegar.
The centre stage was reserved for pumpkins, this favourite autumn vegetable of continental Croatia. Bundevijada offers rare and unusual meals, competition for the biggest, heaviest, smallest and most interesting pumpkin. You may have heard of the pumpkin soup and cakes with sweet pumpkin, but have you ever tried fried pumpkins, pumpkin jam, dried pumpkin, pumpkin juice, and many other often imaginative meals with pumpkins? If not, next Bundevijada is your destination.
Of course, this event abounds with already strong come back of pumpkin seed oil, which already has a brand in the continental Croatia just as the extra-virgin olive oil has in the littoral areas. Pumpkin seed was used as the first raw material for oil production in continental areas such as Međimurje, Podravina, and Slavonia, and it experiences a great comeback. It has a rich aroma and special flavour, ideal for salads, pasta, and thick soups. Probably the most famous salad imaginable with pumpkin seed oil is the bean-and-onion salad. Seeds are often used also for making spreads and flour.
Pumpkin strudel (bučnica) may well be the regional dish of Zagorje and Međimurje. Homemade bučnica is excellent dessert, although you are never sure which kind will you have in hands. While pumpkin is the basis for bučnica, it may also contain poppy seeds or salty cottage cheese.
If you haven’t been on Bundevijada in Vrbovsko, don’t despair. There are plenty of pumpkin products available in various family farmsteads, and one of them is OPG Kate, which we have visited on numerous occasions – their pumpkin soup is particularly good! And when you finish with the pumpkins, don’t forget to lit the candle inside. It is, after all, Halloween!